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Toronto Raptors Vice-Chairman and President Masai Ujiri joins Fremantle & Passenger Basketball Africa League Documentary Series as Executive Producer

By APO Group
28 October 2021   |   6:00 pm
Toronto Raptors Vice-Chairman and President Masai Ujiri has joined the new landmark documentary series on the recently-launched Basketball Africa League (BAL) as an Executive Producer. Ujiri, who was the architect behind the Raptors’ historic 2019 NBA Championship, will serve as an Executive Producer on the series, which is being directed by up-and-coming South African director…
National Basketball Association (NBA)

Toronto Raptors Vice-Chairman and President Masai Ujiri has joined the new landmark documentary series on the recently-launched Basketball Africa League (BAL) as an Executive Producer.

Ujiri, who was the architect behind the Raptors’ historic 2019 NBA Championship, will serve as an Executive Producer on the series, which is being directed by up-and-coming South African director Tebogo Malope.  Ujiri’s inspiring commitment to his work off court remains unwavering, where he also serves as President of Giants of Africa, the non-profit he co-founded in 2003, which uses basketball as a tool to educate and enrich the lives of African youth.

Fremantle & Passenger are producing the series, which tells the story of the creation, launch and inaugural season of the BAL, a new professional basketball league in Africa featuring 12 club teams from across the African continent.

The first edition of BAL took place in May in Kigali, Rwanda.  Working closely alongside Showrunner and Executive Producer Richard Brown (TRUE DETECTIVE, CATCH 22) as well as Executive Producers Fisher Stevens (TIGER KING, THE COVE) and Akin Omotoso (THE GREEK FREAK, a forthcoming feature film about Nigerian-Greek NBA Champion and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo), Ujiri will help tell the stories of the many fascinating cultures, characters, and personalities across Africa in the context of this inspiring new basketball league, which aspires to transform the professional sports ecosystem throughout the African continent.

The landmark documentary series will follow the stories of the players, coaches, and teams from across Africa as they prepare for and compete in the first BAL season.  This powerful series will spotlight the momentum and ambition behind the pan-African basketball league and the individuals who have worked tirelessly to change the landscape of sports on the continent through this historic initiative

Ujiri has been involved with the NBA in Africa for nearly two decades and has been instrumentally involved in its Basketball Without Borders (BWB) program.  Last May, the NBA launched NBA Africa as a new, standalone entity that conducts the league’s business in Africa, including the BAL.  Strategic investors in NBA Africa include Nigerian businessmen Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo and Tope Lawani, and former NBA players, including Dikembe Mutombo, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Junior Bridgeman.  In July, former President Barack Obama joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner.

Ujiri grew up in Zaria, Nigeria, where his love of the game brought him to college in the United States, and when his playing career was complete, his awe-inspiring career off-court began.  Having joined the backroom staff for the Toronto Raptors in 2008, Ujiri subsequently became General Manager and President of the Denver Nuggets, where he was named 2012/13 NBA Executive of the Year.  He re-joined the Toronto Raptors in 2014 as President.  Six years later the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA title in franchise history.

In addition, BAFTA and EMMY award winning editor Andy Worboys has joined the project as lead editor, along with archive producer Paul Bell (SENNA, AMY, DIEGO MARADONA).

Executive Producer, Masai Ujiri, said: “The very first time I was introduced to this project, I knew that I had to be a part of it.  As a young boy, I could have never imagined a professional basketball league, with opportunities for Africans both on and off the court, in my own backyard.  The inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League marked a special event in the history of sports in Africa and I’m honoured to help showcase the unique journey that has brought us to this moment in time.”  

Executive Producer, Richard Brown, said: “In the early stages of putting this series together we met Masai, and it was immediately apparent that he would be the ideal partner on this project.  Going from young player in Nigeria to an inspirational leader in the NBA and a visionary architect of the future of sports in Africa he embodies the aspirations behind the story we are telling.  We’re thrilled that he has come on board; his knowledge, ideas and insights are invaluable.”

The BAL, a partnership between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), marks the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.  The first BAL Finals was held on Sunday, May 30, where Zamalek were crowned champions.

Housed at Fremantle and made exclusively in partnership with the BAL, the documentary series forms part of Fremantle’s exclusive multiyear deal with Brown’s production company, Passenger.

Below are the 12 club teams from 12 African countries that competed in the inaugural BAL season:

COUNTRY

TEAM

Algeria

GSP (https://bit.ly/3pLUZ1B) (Groupement Sportif des Pétroliers) **

Angola

Petro de Luanda (https://bit.ly/3EjYVdU) (Clube Atlético Petroleos de Luanda) *

Cameroon

FAP (https://bit.ly/3jGqoyA) (Forces Armées et Police Basketball) **

Egypt

Zamalek* (https://bit.ly/3BiUcap)

Madagascar

GNBC (https://bit.ly/3mmWVeL) (Gendarmerie Nationale Basketball Club)**

Mali

AS Police (https://bit.ly/3BqtDjL) (Association Sportive de la Police Nationale) **

Morocco

AS Salé (https://bit.ly/3jJebcq) (Association Sportive de Salé) *

Mozambique

Ferroviàrio de Maputo** (https://bit.ly/2ZuDszQ)

Nigeria

Rivers Hoopers (https://bit.ly/3nBpOU6) (Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club)*

Rwanda

Patriots BBC (https://bit.ly/3vRrQmK) (Patriots Basketball Club)**

Senegal

AS Douanes (https://bit.ly/3Co2qzj) (Association Sportive des Douanes) *

Tunisia

US Monastir (https://bit.ly/3Gv4kkj) (Union Sportive Monastirienne)*

*Champion from national league that earned representation in the inaugural BAL season **Secured participation in the inaugural BAL season through a BAL qualifying tournament 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of National Basketball Association (NBA).

Media Contacts:
tamara@giantsofafrica.org
pweszka@nba.com
samira.sorzano@fremantle.com
jamesrickard@tpf-london.com

About Masai Ujiri
Vice-Chairman and President – Toronto Raptors; Co-Founder – Giants of Africa

When his friends and classmates in Nigeria were playing soccer, Masai Ujiri was watching highlights of Hakeem Olajuwon.  His love of the game brought him to college in the United States, and when his career on the court was complete, his career off-court began.  

He started on the ground as a scout, working for teams traveling the world and searching for talent in gyms all over the globe.  Masai was named general manager of the Denver Nuggets in 2011, becoming the first African GM in pro sports, and won the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year award.  In Toronto, he has served as director of global scouting and assistant general manager, and in 2013, Masai was named president of the Toronto Raptors.  In 2021, after signing a new contract, Masai added the role of vice-chairman of the club to his responsibilities as team president.  

Under his leadership, the Raptors won the 2019 NBA Championship, the first team outside the United States to do so.  Masai has said that while he is proud to be the first African team president in North American sports, he would consider it a failure if he was the last: “Being first is good, but I don't want to be the only one.  There have to be more.”  Masai’s belief in equity and diversity is reflected in his organization: he has committed to hiring women, and recently creating the position of vice-president of organizational inclusion and diversity.

Masai has served as director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa program.  He has travelled with the Prime Minister as part of the Canadian delegation to the 2019 African Union meetings.  He has been named Toronto’s most influential person, and his urging of citizens to “believe in this city – believe in yourselves” is often cited as a rallying cry.  He serves on the advisory board of the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security, an organization focused on eradicating the use of child soldiers.

Masai and his wife, Ramatu, live in Toronto with their three children.  In 2003, Masai co-founded Giants of Africa, an organization which uses sport as a tool to enrich the lives of youth on the continent, and create opportunities for them on and off the court.  Masai’s ethos is to “Dream Big,” and now GOA connects with youth – both boys and girls – in more than 17 African countries and territories.  The summer of 2018 marked 15 years of the organization, and that July, Masai and former U.S. President Barack Obama opened the Giants of Africa court at the Sauti Kuu Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre, in Alego, Kenya.  

In summer 2022, the inaugural Giants of Africa Festival will bring together 200 youth from 11 countries in Africa to Kigali, Rwanda for a week-long celebration of basketball, education, culture, and entertainment.  

In 2020, Masai launched thatshumanity.org, inspired by his experiences and the lessons learned from leaders like Nelson Mandela.  “For me,” he says, “it’s about seeing each other.  Really seeing.  Trying to understand what someone else is going through.  And helping if we can.  Even if it’s just a kind word.  Some encouragement.  That’s humanity.”

Media files
National Basketball Association (NBA)
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